Echoes of the Indelible Sea

An ongoing project about the lives of the fishermen in Baja California.

Punta Baja

Punta Baja is a small south facing point that serves the nearby town of El Rosario, Baja California Norte with jobs and food.

Punta Baja is a broody piece of ragged rock, sand and sage, that juts out like a spear into the cold Pacific.

Long before the Transpeninsular Highway 1 was built, the highway ended at the town of El Rosario, about 5 hours South of the San Diego/Tijuana border crossing. For Baja adventurers and surf seekers, this marked the beginning of “True Baja.” In fact, the local restaurant Mama Espinos was the official start of the Baja 1000 for many years.

El Rosario also clings to its proud history. Along with its unique place among the Jesuit Mission Trail, fishing has been a long tradition that has served the area for years. That tradition carries on today, and has grown into a lynchpin in modern day food chain, that now serves California with fresh fish, crab, and lobster, Japan with Sea Urchin, and Korea with Sea Cucumber.

Every morning on this point, a few dozen local fishermen launch their boats from the protected beach and look to bring in a haul that will sustain themselves and their families. This is the story of Punta Baja.

Jaiba Fishermen

“A trabajar huevones!” Lets get to work lazy fucks. Is the battle cry from Toño at 6am sharp.

Jesus plunges the panga into the water, Toño at the stern, revs the brand new motor in reverse and glides it off the trailer. Moments later, Jesus has parked the red Ford 150, pivoted the boat to face the oncoming waves, and in the boat. Toño punches the gas, and is instantly looking at his handheld GPS unit. The first destination is 10 miles due South near Isla San Jeronimo. It’s here where Toño and Jesus have placed their Jaiba or Pacific Stone Crab traps the day prior.

Less than twenty minutes later, the panga bobs on glassy, open ocean water, just a stones throw from San Jeronimo. Toño kills the engine. A pod of a hundred dolphins cruise by making the only sound around, a sea lion pops up as if to assure the boat crew that he wasn’t molesting the traps that are resting on the ocean floor. Toño mentions that Orcas are spotted occasionally. They like to play around. Tug the lines, bump the boat.

Ten miles south of Punta Baja, and just a stone’s throw from Isla San Jeronimo, Jesus baits a crab pot before tossing it back in the water.

Pirates and poachers, blue and gray whales, orcas, sharks, Miami Vice style high-speed boat chases, riots, highway blockades, knife threats and family feuds, fathers lost to the deep; echoing indelibly their families legacy on the sea… These are some of the experiences shared by the Vigilancia.


Daniel is the current president of the Co Op and directs the Vigilancia in their anti-poaching efforts.

The Vigilancia is the Co-op’s security force and environmental stewards. They are the force swaying the balance in favor of sustainability.

The vulnerable ecosystem of Punta Baja must be protected and cared for, or face over-fishing as many areas along Baja’s coast have been already. Everyday, the Vigilancia ensures life continues underwater, so there is enough for tomorrow. Above water, their struggle to educate and to thwart poaching is ongoing, but often times met with resistance. For those unwilling to come to terms with thinking about the future, the Vigilancia takes action.

While this small crew of just four, patrols the enormous swath of sea known as Zone 1, stretching from Kilometer marker 41 South of San Quintín to Isla San Jeronimo, and out to the international water line, they work tightly on water, and they receive support from land as well, receiving radio messages to check out suspicious looking boats near shore.

Since the Cooperativa has implemented the patrols, the yields, and sizes of lobster have increased year over year, which in turn has brought more money to the fishermen, and their families.

The homes and the boats that indiscriminately dot the point, decay quickly. The small contingent of outcasts that call the point home, are constantly shoring up their homes, as the weather does it’s best to reclaim the point to itself.